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Sharing the Light of Peace

Reporter: Altoonamirror

 Sharing the Light of Peace

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For more than 1,000 years, oil lamps have continuously burned at the grotto at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. On Monday, area residents can take a bit of that light home as part of a project to spread peace and light throughout the world. At 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, Juniata United Methodist Church, 808 N.

Fourth St., Altoona, will host a service during which those in attendance can light a candle from the Peace Light flame that originated in Bethlehem. While the church will provide candles — like the ones often used at candlelight services — participants who bring a lantern or a long-burning candle will be able to safely take the light home to enjoy for the holidays, said Pastor Michelle Bodle. This seems to be the first time a Peace Light has been in Blair County, Bodle said, though it was in Philipsburg last year, at Grace United Methodist Church, where she was the pastor. Bodle said she had never heard of the Peace Light before taking part in a webinar during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a striking idea to share peace and friendship during the holiday” through candlelight, she said. Bodle became pastor of the Altoona church in July and said the congregation is “really excited about the idea to share the light of Christ.

Folks have been talking about it.” Everyone is invited to attend what will be a short service to bless the Peace Light, explain the candle and pass the Light on through the lighting of candles from the flame. The Monday service will include a prayer “that whoever receives the flame is blessed as well,” she said. The Peace Light this year is being dedicated to peace in Ukraine, according to international organizers. Originates in Bethlehem The story of the Peace Light begins in Bethlehem, where each year, a child from Upper Austria travels as a pilgrim to obtain the flame from the oil lamps at the grotto at the Church of the Nativity. According to the Peace Light North America website, the campaign began in 1986 by the Austrian Broadcasting Co.

as part of a charitable relief mission Light into the Darkness, for children in need in Austria and abroad. Since 1986, and especially after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, Scouts in many countries cooperated to share the light throughout 30 European nations. The Light was first introduced to the United States in 2000, when it was flown from Oslo with a stopover in London before landing in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, at the Phillips Petroleum headquarters, sponsors of the flight. That first year, the Peace Light spread to six states. After the events of Sept.

11, 2001, Austrian and United Kingdom Peace Light organizers privately brought the Light to Phillips Petroleum in Maine. There, Boy and Girl Scouts received the light and took it to New York City where it was delivered with a message of peace and hope to mortuary workers at Ground Zero. An Austrian delegation also delivered the Peace Light to New York City, where it was presented to the Rector of St.

Patrick’s Cathedral as a gift and message of love for all in the United States. Since then, word about the Peace Light has spread, and in 2019, Peace Light North America, an all-volunteer nonprofit, was formed to provide mapping, communication services and information on safely transporting the Light. Light for the world This year, the Peace Light arrived Sunday, Dec.

4, at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York via Austrian Airlines. The welcoming ceremony took place outside Our Lady of the Skies Chapel in Terminal 4. Since it arrived, thousands of people have received the light as it is passed lantern-to-lantern, candle-to-candle. Spreading the Light is symbolic of the Light of Christ, organizers said.

It promotes peace, harmony and unity among all people of the world — every race, ethnicity and creed. Spreading the Light also takes a lot of volunteers, as people passing along the Light meet in churches, parking lots and other locations where candles are lit and transported throughout the country. Last year, Bodle’s parents traveled to Clarion to get the Light, as it was coming into the area on a Sunday, when Bodle had church services. This year, Bodle will be traveling to Hershey to light two candles from a volunteer who went to JFK International Airport to light a candle from the Light when it arrived at the New York airport. Bodle is getting two candles lit “as a backup,” she said. She will be lighting an oil lantern that will be placed in a large bucket that has been retrofitted to hold the lantern safety for the return trip to Altoona.

She’ll also be lighting a smaller candle lantern that will safely sit in a cup holder. Transferring the Light gets “a little bit more complicated when you go that far,” she said. Travel fascinating The Light’s travel is fascinating to see as people across the country post on Peace Light North America’s Facebook page, which can be found on the peacelightnorthamerica.org website. The website offers a map of the Light’s travel and information for meet ups where the flame can be shared. “The light is driven throughout the U.S.,” Bodlin said.

While one person might not drive it the whole way from New York to California, they might meet halfway, she said. A check of the Facebook page Thursday night revealed the Light was in North Alabama and would be shared with a local Scout shop in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday and kept in Madison, Alabama, through the season. The Peace Light also took “center stage” for the Preschool Christmas show at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. When an area gets access to a Peace Light depends on the volunteers’ schedules, Bodlin said. And what individuals and churches use the Light for also varies. “Different churches across the United States use it in different ways,” she said.

“Some light advent candles, perpetual flames, baptism candles or just use them for the holiday season.” “There are ‘Keepers of the Flame’ that keep it going all year,” she said, noting she uses the Light for the holiday season. “One woman had a gas street light, so it’s always lit,” she said, noting that person lives in Texas. What is great about checking out the organization’s website and Facebook page is that people share their stories, she said. “It’s so cool to see it work its way across” the country, she said.

“We get to hear each other’s stories and what it means to them to get the Light and pass it on.” Karla Taylor Christian in Waller, Texas, posted a photo Thursday of herself with Tim Smith, who flew to New York City for the Dec. 4 reception ceremony, then rented a car and set out on the more than 2,000-mile drive to Jacksonville, Florida, and on to Texas.

He stopped multiple times along the way, she posted. “Through his selfless giving of time and resources, Tim has spread peace and friendship to hundreds of people, many of whom he’ll never meet. I’m grateful beyond words for his contribution.” The livestream of the Austrian Peace Light ceremony from Vienna will begin at 8 a.m.

Eastern on Saturday, Dec. 10. It can be found on the Peace Light North America Facebook page. Spreading the Light also takes a lot of volunteers, as people passing along the Light meet in churches, parking lots and other locations where candles are lit and transported throughout the country. Last year, Bodle’s parents traveled to Clarion to get the Light, as it was coming into the area on a Sunday, when Bodle had church services. This year, Bodle will be traveling to Hershey to light two candles from a volunteer who went to JFK International Airport to light a candle from the Light when it arrived at the New York airport. Bodle is getting two candles lit “as a backup,” she said. She will be lighting an oil lantern that will be placed in a large bucket that has been retrofitted to hold the lantern safety for the return trip to Altoona.

She’ll also be lighting a smaller candle lantern that will safely sit in a cup holder. Travel fascinating The Light’s travel is fascinating to see as people across the country post on Peace Light North America’s Facebook page, which can be found on the peacelightnorthamerica.org website. The website offers a map of the Light’s travel and information for meet ups where the flame can be shared. “The light is driven throughout the U.S.,” Bodlin said.

While one person might not drive it the whole way from New York to California, they might meet halfway, she said. A check of the Facebook page Thursday night revealed the Light was in North Alabama and would be shared with a local Scout shop in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday and kept in Madison, Alabama, through the season. The Peace Light also took “center stage” for the Preschool Christmas show at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. When an area gets access to a Peace Light depends on the volunteers’ schedules, Bodlin said. And what individuals and churches use the Light for also varies. “Different churches across the United States use it in different ways,” she said.

“Some light advent candles, perpetual flames, baptism candles or just use them for the holiday season.” “There are ‘Keepers of the Flame’ that keep it going all year,” she said. “One woman had a gas street light, so it’s always lit,” she said, noting that person lives in Texas. What is great about checking out the organization’s website and Facebook page is that people share their stories, she said. “It’s so cool to see it work its way across” the country, she said.

“We get to hear each other’s stories and what it means to them to get the Light and pass it on.” Karla Taylor Christian in Waller, Texas, posted a photo Thursday of herself with Tim Smith, who flew to New York City for the Dec. 4 reception ceremony, then rented a car and set out on the more than 2,000-mile drive to Jacksonville, Florida, and on to Texas.

He stopped multiple times along the way, she posted. “Through his selfless giving of time and resources, Tim has spread peace and friendship to hundreds of people, many of whom he’ll never meet.” The livestream of the Austrian Peace Light ceremony from Vienna will begin at 8 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, Dec.

10. It can be found on the Peace Light North America Facebook page.

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